A DIPLOMATIC HISTORIAN TAKES A LOOK AT THE WIKILEAKS FILES
"Date 2009-11-04 06:44:00
Source Embassy Manama
S E C R E T MANAMA 000642
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2019
SUBJECT: GENERAL PETRAEUS WITH KING HAMAD: IRAQ,
AFGHANISTAN, IRAN, NATO AWACS, ENERGY
Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli, reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: In an hour-long meeting on November 1 with CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus, Bahrain's King Hamad said Arab states need to do more to engage Iraq, discussed Afghanistan and the positive role India could play, urged action to stop Iran's nuclear program, and reviewed regional plans for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. END SUMMARY.
2.(C) IRAQ: King Hamad fully endorsed General Petraeus's point that increased Arab engagement and influence would help frustrate Iranian designs in Iraq. He added that the Arabs need Egyptian and Saudi leadership in this matter and that he had tried to make this point to the Saudi government, but with little effect.
3.(C) AFGHANISTAN: General Petraeus praised Bahrain's commitment of a police company for internal security at FOB Leatherneck. King Hamad confirmed that he would personally see the force off at the airport on December 16. This date will be the 10th anniversary of the King's assuming the throne, and General Petraeus said that U.S. air assets would be available on the 16th to transport the company to
Afghanistan. King Hamad inquired about the extent of India's involvement in Afghanistan and noted that Bahrain saw India as very positive force in the region. "It's a new era," he said. "They can be of great help."
4.(C) IRAN: King Hamad pointed to Iran as the source of much of the trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear program, by whatever means necessary. "That program must be stopped," he said. "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it." King Hamad added that in light of these regional developments, Bahrain was working to
strengthen GCC coordination and its relations with allies and international organizations. He specifically mentioned NATO and confirmed that Bahrain had agreed to the Alliance's request to use Isa Airbase for AWACS missions, although the detail on numbers and timing have yet to be discussed.
Source Embassy Seoul
S E C R E T SEOUL 000272
SUBJECT: VFM CHUN YOUNG-WOO ON SINO-NORTH KOREAN RELATIONS
Classified By: AMB D. Kathleen Stephens. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).
1. (S) Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo told the Ambassador February 17th that China would not be able to stop North Korea's collapse following the death of Kim Jong-il (KJI). The DPRK, Chun said, had already collapsed economically and would collapse politically two to three years after the death of Kim Jong-il. Chun dismissed ROK media reports that Chinese companies had agreed to pump 10 billion USD into the North's economy. Beijing had "no will" to use its modest economic leverage to force a change in Pyongyang's policies -- and the DPRK leadership "knows it."
It was "a very bad thing" that Wu Dawei -- whom Chun characterized as "the most incompetent official in China" -- had retained his position as chief of the PRC's 6PT delegation. Describing a generational difference in Chinese attitudes toward North Korea, Chun claimed Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and another senior PRC official from the younger generation both believed Korea should be unified under ROK control. Chun acknowledged the Ambassador's point that a strong ROK-Japan relationship would help Tokyo accept a reunified Korean Peninsula.
"State Secrets: A Selection of the Cache of Diplomatic Dispatches," 29 November 2010 and passim. New York Times, in www.nytimes.com.
"At my [Baron Eckardstein] yesterday's conversation Lord Lansdowne began at once on the alliance question. He remarked that, as he had already said, he and some of his colleagues would much desire a defensive alliance with Germany."
Graf Hatzfeldt [German Ambassador to London] to German Foreign Office, 16 May 1901, in German Diplomatic Documents, 1871-1914, Volume III. Edited E.T.S. Dugdale,
(1930), p. 145.
"In my despatches of the 18th and 29th March and 9th April I have recorded conversations with Baron Eckardstein in which the latter unofficially pressed on my attention the project of an Anglo-German Alliance. In one of our interviews on this subject, which have recently been renewed by him, Baron Eckardstein mentioned incidentially that Austria and Italy would have to be included in such an arrangement as he proposed."
The Marquess of Lansdowne [British Foreign Secretary] to Sir Frank Lascelles [British Ambassador to Berlin], 24 May 1901, in British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, Volume II. Edited G.P. Gooch & Harold Temperley, (1927), p. 65.
Over and above the scandal that the whole affair with the release of the Wikileaks cache of documents has raised, is one another matter which deserves a better hearing: namely how accurate en fait, are these documents? Id est can they be trusted to relay what these various American diplomatic and other personnel claim that they have been told by other parties? This it seems to me is not in fact as straightforward a matter, as the many articles dealing with the documents seem to suggest. As any one who has toiled in the diplomatic archives from different countries such as myself well knows, one of the more interesting as well as frustrating aspects of researching diplomatic history, is that it is quite often the case, that a tet-`a-tet, between one Foreign Minister and another Foreign Minister, are not necessarily in an agreement as to what was exactly said or not said. And while in the annuals of diplomacy, aide-memoires are supposed to obviate points of dispute in such matters, this in point of fact is not nearly full-proof a means of verification as one would like to think. Particularly in the past forty years or so with the decline of good note-taking by younger diplomats, and the rise of telephone conversations & electronic mailings as a substitute for 'face to face' meetings between officials. Even prior to that though, the best example of a diplomatic malentendu of a simple series of tet-`a-tets between a Foreign Minister and a foreign envoy, was that in 1900-1901, between Lord Lansdowne and Baron Eckardstein over the proposed Anglo-German treaty of alliance. Which given the fact that the conversations took place in francais (which both knew intimately), draws ones attention to the infinitely possibilities of much greater mis-understandings and selective listenings in contemporary diplomacy. Especially, given the fact that one presumes that many of the conversations reported in the Wikileaks archives, were conducted in English, which many if not most of the foreign officials involved would only know at best in a second-rate fashion.
In terms of specifics, the two above referenced conversations, which have been widely discussed in the newspapers, seem to typify the issues that I am focusing on. In both cases, the officials (in one case American, in the other South Korean) involved related tet-`a-tets, in which the tenor of the discussion more or less reflected the pre-existing views of not only the officials involved perhaps, but more than likely the views of the State Department as well. Once again, as anyone who has slaved away in the archives will know, it is virtually impossible to accurately reproduce a diplomatic encounter without evidence from both sides of said exchange. Here, in this huge archive of documents, we only have one side. And, while it may be the case, that the Chinese vice-foreign minister did in fact tell his South Korean counter-part, what he relates to the American Ambassador to Seoul, it could also well be the case, that the South Korean official was engaged in an exercise of 'selective hearing'. A pathology which is one of the most dangerous, as well as widespread in the jeu of diplomacy. Similarly, it could very well be that the American Ambassador in Bahrain, was accurately reproducing the conversation between General Petraeus and the King as it relates to Persia. And, it could also be the case that the Ambassador exaggerated, if not distorted what actually was said at the meeting. Especially since what was related by the embassy in Bahrain to the State Department, would have seemed very much what the latter party would like to hear. For my own part, my surmise is that the second conversation is no doubt a fairly accurate version of the views of the government in Bahrain, while the first exchange is more likelier than not an inaccurate version of the opinion of the regime in Peking on the North Korean situation. Au fond, the fact of the matter is that in the absence of diplomatic documentation from both sides of these various exchanges and reports, the Wikileaks trove of documents can only be said to provide a partial view of what what actually was said at these various meetings. As we have no evidence of the accuracy of these reports from both sides of said conversations. And are not likely to have for quite sometime to come. In the case of certain regimes (the PRC, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et cetera), not for a very long time to come. Indeed perhaps never. Something that we should all bear in mind as more and more of these documents are released.